Economic Tidbits

Less Corn, More Soybeans In 2021

Nebraska farmers planted fewer acres of corn this spring compared to last year and more acres of soybeans according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) crop acreage report released June 30. Nationally, the NASS estimates farmers planted 92.7 million acres to corn, 2 percent more than last year, and 87.6 million acres of soybeans, up 5 percent.

Nebraska farmers, though, planted fewer acres to corn, 9.7 million acres, down 5 percent compared to 2020, and 5.4 million acres to soybeans, up 4 percent or 200,000 acres (Figure 1). Nebraska corn acres this year are down 500,000 acres, matching Iowa as the largest reduction in acres in the nation.

Total acres planted to field crops in Nebraska this year is 19.32 million acres, down 461,000 acres, but still larger than the average planted since 1993, 19.1 million acres. Like soybeans, more acres were planted to sorghum, wheat, dry peas, and sunflowers this year compared to last. Sorghum acres exploded with a 44 percent increase, or 85,000 acres. Dry edible peas also saw double-digit percentage growth, 31 percent, or 11,000 acres. The uptick in wheat acres, 930,000 acres, was the first increase since 2014 when acres were just over 1.5 million. On the other hand, acres planted to sugar beets, dry beans, and hay were down this year. Dry beans had the largest percentage decline at 21 percent.

Figure 1. Percentage Change in Planted Acres, 2021 vs. 2020

Source: NEFB calculations based on USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data

Figure 2 plots planted acres for Nebraska’s four major crops since 1990—corn, soybeans, wheat, and sorghum. Corn acres, while fewer this year, still remain near all-time highs and the crop remains firmly ensconced as the state’s top. Soybean acres, while off the high mark of 5.7 million acres in 2017 and 2018, also remain near all-time highs. Wheat acres, with this year’s uptick, have come off all-time lows but still well below acreage levels in the 1990s. Finally, sorghum acres, while higher, remain at levels seen since the late 2000s.

Nebraska crops are faring better than the rest of the nation thus far this growing season according the last week’s NASS crop progress report. The percentage of Nebraska’s corn and soybean acres rated good or excellent topped the nation at or above 80 percent for both crops. Yet, some areas of the state remain abnormally dry or under drought. And, severe weather always lurks in the next cloud bank, as parts of the state experienced last weekend. But, so far in 2021, it appears Nebraska’s crop producers are in for a decent year.

Figure 2. Planted Acres to Major Nebraska Crops, 1990-2021

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

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